All posts in “Technology”

Jaquet Droz is shipping its mechanical signing machine

Watchmaker Jaquet Droz announced its Signing Machine – a mechanical device that will sign your name for you using a series of miniature gears and springs – in 2014. Four years later, the company is ready to ship their miraculous contraction just in time for you to ink the deal you’ve made with Cybereus, lord of the digital underworld.

This exquisitely baroque gadget is essentially a little cartridge full of clockwork. You wind it up, stick a pencil in its tiny retractable claw, and let it go. The gears and levers recreate your signature with a series of flowing strokes generated by the movement of the gears.

Droz, a 18th century watchmaker and automaton manufacturer, was famous for his miraculous contraptions including a Draughtsman and Writer, two human-shaped robots that could draw and write, along with his beautiful singing birds that used tiny pipes and bellows to recreate birdsong.

The Signing Machine is activated after you enter your four digit code into the the device and each unit is individually decorated for the owner.

How much does this bit of titanium jimcrackery cost? It starts at $367,500 and goes up depending on your signature. Too much? Just remember: making deals with the cryptodemons of the digital underworld isn’t cheap. You’ll need something like this oddly tactical piece of metal to truly widen their hooded, red-shining eyes.

How to use tech to become an actual wizard like Harry Potter

Flying motorbikes

Badass gamekeeper Hagrid and godfather of dreams Sirius Black know how to travel, and we’ve been dabbling in the possibility of flying motorbikes in the muggle world. In 2017, a Russian startup unveiled their concept Scorpion-3, a fully-rideable hoverbike. As if that weren’t enough, Dubai police have hovercrafts. Now, to use this technology on a hog with a sidecar.


While we’re still playing muggle quidditch on the shitty ground, perhaps one day we’ll get to a flying version of the sport. One suggestion? Personal jetpacks, which are well into production around the globe. Los Angeles-based JetPack Aviation led by Australian entrepreneur David Mayman has apparently made the only personal vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicle to receive FAA approval for a public flight. New Zealand’s Martin Aircraft, has long been making Optionally Piloted Hovering Air Vehicles (OPHAV), which can be flown with an onboard pilot or not.

The jetpacks have only been used for stunt work or rescue missions so far, and not for public use yet. But if there’s a way to attach a mountable broom-like object to the aircraft, then you’ll practically be zooming around on a Firebolt. Attach them to seven vehicles? You’ve got a quidditch side.

Flying cars

Mr. Weasley’s Ford Anglia had a mind of its own when manipulated by the Whomping Willow, but it’s usually a pretty reliable flying car for the gang. Pottermore refers to cars as the “one major exception to the general magical aversion to muggle technology,” along with motorbikes and trains. Even the Ministry of Magic uses cars.

Luckily, muggles are seriously playing with the reality of flying cars. Larry Page’s flying taxis are planned to take off in New Zealand by 2021. Slovakian startup AeroMobil has a new flying taxi concept that goes from car to electric plane. An Australian startup called Alauda is building electric, low-altitude aircraft to race. German company Volocopter, which is manufacturing Dubai’s future flying-taxis, just had a successful first test flight. And Airbus’ drone taxi successfully completed its first 53-second test flight in February.


Once we nail this one, muggles will be unstoppable faux wizards. Apparating is just a wizard form of teleportation, with more freedom. How close are we? Well, in 2017, Chinese scientists teleported a photon particle from the Earth to a satellite orbiting 870 miles away. We’re a while off from teleporting organic matter, but imagine, once we get there you’ll be able to jump into a dark portal, pressed very hard from all directions, finding it hard to breathe, as if iron bands were tightening around your chest and your eyeballs were being forced back into your head, and then pop! You’re at work, boom. Just don’t get splinched.

Arm chips with Nvidia AI could change the Internet of Things

Nvidia and Arm today announced a partnership that’s aimed at making it easier for chip makers to incorporate deep learning capabilities into next-generation consumer gadgets, mobile devices and Internet of Things objects. Mostly, thanks to this partnership, artificial intelligence could be coming to doorbell cams or smart speakers soon.

Arm intends to integrate Nvidia’s open-source Deep Learning Accelerator (NVDLA) architecture into its just-announced Project Trillium platform. Nvidia says this should help IoT chip makers incorporate AI into their products.

“Accelerating AI at the edge is critical in enabling Arm’s vision of connecting a trillion IoT devices,” said Rene Haas, EVP, and president of the IP Group, at Arm. “Today we are one step closer to that vision by incorporating NVDLA into the Arm Project Trillium platform, as our entire ecosystem will immediately benefit from the expertise and capabilities our two companies bring in AI and IoT.”

Announced last month, Arm’s Project Trillium is a series of scalable processors designed for machine learning and neural networks. NVDLA open-source nature allows Arm to offer a suite of developers tools on its new platform. Together, with Arm’s scalable chip platforms and Nvidia’s developer’s tools, the two companies feel they’re offering a solution that could result in billions of IoT, mobile and consumers electronic devices gaining access to deep learning.

Deepu Tallam, VP and GM of Autonomous Machines at Nvidia, explained it best with this analogy: “NVDLA is like providing all the ingredients for somebody to make it a dish including the instructions. With Arm [this partnership] is basically like a microwave dish.”

Apple doubles down on book creation with iPad app

Apple’s ebook creation tools – first launched in 2012 – have long played an interesting if minor role in the ecosystem. While Amazon has the indie book world sewn up with Kindle Direct Publishing, the desktop-based iBooks Author has always been the multimedia alternative and a favorite for folks creating one-off texts. Although there are no clear numbers (the last announcement happened in 2015 when Apple claimed seeing 1 million new iBooks users per week), there is some evidence that it behooves indie authors to at least support the platform and with the new iPad Author tools it looks like creators – and educators – will be able to create and distribute their own iPad-based texts.

The app, which is part of Pages and is called Digital Books in new iOS parlance, allows users to create multimedia books just as they would create regular documents. The app also supports group editing and multiple templates allow you to flow images and text into the app seamlessly.

The new application is a direct attack on the current popular educational authoring tool, Google Docs. Anecdotally, the Brooklyn schools my kids attend all finish and turn in their homework via the schools own private Google accounts, a fact that probably keeps iOS educational team leads up at night. This move from a dedicated desktop app mostly aimed at indie authors and higher education to an iPad app aimed at small groups and, presumably, elementary and high school teachers who want to produce their own lightweight content, is a step in the right direction.

Twitter moves to ban crypto ads

Twitter is the latest social service to boot out cryptocurrency advertisers. The company told Reuters it will be launching a new policy this week to prohibit the advertising of token sales/initial coin offerings (ICOs), and crypto wallet services.

Ads for cryptocurrency exchanges will also be banned — with some limited exceptions.

Facebook announced a ban in January, while Google said earlier this month that it will ban them from June.

Twitter confirmed the policy change to us, providing the following statement: “We are committed to ensuring the safety of the Twitter community. As such, we have added a new policy for Twitter Ads relating to cryptocurrency. Under this new policy, the advertisement of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and token sales will be prohibited globally.”

“We will continue to iterate and improve upon this policy as the industry evolves,” it added — flagging its current restricted content policies around financial services.

A company spokesperson told us it expects to update its ads policies page within the next hour. At the time of writing the page was last updated on August 30th 2017.

Since then Twitter has faced criticism for hosting crypto ads on its platform at a time when concern over cryptocurrency-related scams and risks have been voiced by regulators around the world. As we wrote earlier this month, banning these sorts of adverts really is a no brainer at this stage — so it’s good to see it listening and rethinking its approach.

Twitter has been taking some action to tackle crypto scams. Earlier this month we reported it had been suspending some users for soliciting crypto — in an apparent effort to crack down on scammers’ ability to use the platform.

But, at the time, it was not keen to comment on its crypto ads policy — even though its existing ads policy prohibits unsafe and deceptive ads and/or ads that make misleading claims.

As we said then a platform level ban on crypto advertising is just common sense — at least until the market is properly regulated.

We understand Twitter’s new crypto ads policy will continue to be reviewed as the industry evolves.

And while ICOs/token sale ads will be banned globally there’s some wiggle room for exchanges and wallet services — with only those provided by a public company listed on certain major stock markets allowed to buy Twitter ads.

In certain market further restrictions may also apply — such as that exchanges must be regulated by an FSA to be allowed to purchase ads.